TWO male academics dressed as glam rockers complete with make-up and singing songs is not something you see every day.

Yet while the show staged by David Archibald and Carl Lavery of the University of Glasgow is a lot of fun, the aim is to use it as a vehicle for the exploration of ideas.

In the Glasgow Glam Rock Dialogues, they say, the aim is not to teach but to provoke debate, whilst sporting spandex trousers and feather boas.

During the performance the duo, from the School of Culture and Creative Arts, channel the spirits of Marc Bolan and Suzi Quatro, Karl Marx and Peter Kropotkin, to approach pressing issues facing the world today.

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An attempt to “perform thinking” in front of a live audience, mixing Brechtian techniques with a glam rock aesthetic, the dialogues seem to have touched a nerve.

The third dialogue, Commune, was first performed last autumn to packed-out venues, and the pair have decided to glam up again for a repeat one-off performance on March 3.

Demand is so great that the event at Glasgow’s Gilmorehill Centre is already fully booked with a waiting list for tickets.


THE intriguing question is why a couple of lecturers would hit on the apparently random idea of dressing up as glam rockers in order to stimulate debate on some of the issues of our time.

Seventies bands like the Sweet appeared to reject the revolutionary themes running through the music of the Sixties, embracing decadence and superficiality instead. Other than its gender ambiguity, glam rock was generally regarded as having nothing much to say apart from encouraging people to dress up and have a good time.

Lavery and Archibald, however, decided to look out the glitter after reading an article in an academic journal that suggested, somewhat comically, that the neo-liberal university would be happy only with academics who behaved like big rock stars or glam rockers.

“We thought we would take that and turn it on its head – just be glam rockers but with a twist,” said Archibald.

They also felt they wanted the dialogues to be rooted in Glasgow.

“There isn’t a city as glam or as gallus as Glasgow,” pointed out Archibald. “In the dialogues we talk a bit about Glasgow and what is happening in the city – Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night and the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ work-in in 1971.

“It brings to mind the Alasdair Gray quote about how it’s only possible to understand a city once it’s been represented in art. But it was also a way of anchoring the theoretical and the historical in the local.”


AS Archibald and Lavery point out, glam rock was a bit broader than was often thought.

“People often describe it as a genre or a style but it was almost like a moment when everybody was a bit glam,” said Archibald. “We are quite happy to play around the edges of glam and appropriate stuff we like now. The dialogues are not presented in any way like a normal academic lecture. They have academic content but you’ll be pleased to hear that there is no exam at the end.”

Between last August and October, the pair wrote and performed three dialogues: Work, a response to the Universal Basic Income at Fika cafe, Partick; Luxury, at the Market Gallery in Dennistoun, which examined the historian Kristin Ross’s concept of communal luxury; and Commune, which responded to Peter Watkins’s film La Commune (Paris, 1871). This last was performed for Document Film Festival at the CCA, and once more at Glasgow School of Art, to mark the launch of issue 56 of The Drouth, Scotland’s literary quarterly.

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COMMUNE was the most theatrically developed of the three and it is this that is to be staged again.

In it, the pair talk about the Paris Commune, the film and the event, and efforts that people have made over the years to create communal life. They explore the role of radical art in theatre and film and talk about the future for communism and capitalism in the 21st century.

“We don’t give a lecture and although we are close to each other in how we look at the world, we differ in many things and we tease out these differences in discussions and debate," said Archibald.

"We think through the material on stage without either of us feeling we have to win the argument. There’s more dissensus than consensus. A few of the things that people were rebelling about 146 years ago are still hanging around just now such as the rents question and housing.

"The Paris Commune started, in part, as a rents strike and was also to do with public space and the control of public space. These things still resonate today.”


WHAT the audience will not get are answers.

“We don’t have definitive answers,” said Archibald. “We have opinions and we are putting them out there and encouraging people to think them through. We don’t want people to come along and simply agree with me or with Carl. We want them to come and listen to the debate.”

Above all the duo would like their audience to reflect on the material they encounter.

“We are living in an age where we are bombarded with material through social media and 24 hour news. We are trying to create a space for critical thinking as we don’t reflect enough on the whirlwind of processes and events. But we also want people to have a good time and the music and the comic aspects are important. Laughter can be useful in provoking thinking. And if we are not thinking through how we live our lives then we are allowing someone else to do our thinking for us.”

An interview with Lavery and Archibald about the Dialogues appears in the latest issue of The Drouth: dialogues.

Add your name to the waiting list at: dialogues-3-commune-tickets-30792632593